Bruce returns as Votto works toward recovery
MAY 23, 2014 5:03p ET
CINCINNATI -- Jay Bruce certainly doesn't need the cash, but in the interest of modern medicine he should hire himself out to medical schools.
How can a guy who underwent knee surgery little more than two weeks ago be back on the field playing baseball?
True it was arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair a partially torn meniscus, but surgery is surgery and it leaves pain and soreness.
Bruce underwent the surgery on May 5, just 18 days ago, and was in the Cincinnati Reds lineup Friday night for the first of a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Not only was he in the lineup, he was batting fourth in an effort to pump up a deflated Reds offense.
Bruce, in fact, was activated off the disabled list Wednesday when the team was in Washington and was disappointed that he wasn't in the lineup that day -- just 16 days after surgery. While Bruce was out, he missed 14 games and the Reds were 6-8.
Manager Bryan Price wouldn't be baited into discussing expectations from his 26-year-old right fielder and said, "I don't think I'll discuss expectations. What I am happy about is how quickly he rebounded from the injury and how quickly he wanted to come back to help the club.
"He is hitting fourth in the lineup because he is an impact bat, but that being said, we know he hasn't played for a couple of weeks."
While the team was in Washington, Bruce did bat against disabled pitcher Mat Latos during a live batting practice/ simulated game session and did drive a ball out of the park.
"We're looking forward to him getting hot and doing some damage for us in the middle of our lineup," said Price. "We haven't scored a ton of runs (160, 12th in the National League), but having Jay Bruce back enables us to move Todd Frazier to the No. 2 hole (from fourth and fifth). I continue to be optimistic that this is the type of group that is capable of doing more damage than it has done so far."
Bruce was hitting .216 with three homers and 14 RBI before he went down, suffering through April, as he normally does. May, though, has been a big month historically for the big left-handed hitter, "So now I'll just have to use the rest of this month and all of June as my May," he said.
As Bruce headed for the batting cage to take hitting practice before Friday's game, he stopped to say, "I'm so excited to get back and I worked hard to get back. As a professional athlete I have the opportunity to have a team full of medical people to help you recover the quickest."
Bruce said he feels better physically than he can recall, "In a long, long time, and right now I've done a 180 from the way I felt before the surgery. I had three weeks of complete and utter rehab. It was a very easy surgery. Fortunately, we had four or five off days while I was on the DL so I only missed 14 games which is very important to me."
While news was positive for Bruce, it is not so positive for first baseman Joey Votto. After delaying placement of Votto on the disabled list hoping he could return in time for the St. Louis series, Votto landed on the DL Wednesday.
"We gave him a week, coming into this series, to recover, to get the soreness out of his knee," said Price. "He needed to get the strength back in his quadriceps and his knee. We weren't able to get there. The strength deficit is still a concern and it just seemed it made more sense to get Votto as close to 100 percent as we can."
Price paused and dropped a nugget.
"Getting Joey close to 100 percent the rest of this year might not be possible" he said. "But we want to get him as close to it as we can to give him a better foundation to play, rather than getting him back at 50 or 60 percent."
Price said Votto's current condition prevents him from using his left leg as a hitting foundation and also restricts his defensive range. If he is ready, Votto can come off the disabled list on May 31, eight days from now.